Cambodia landmine detection rat awarded miniature gold medal for ‘lifesaving bravery’

Cambodia landmine detection rat awarded miniature gold medal for ‘lifesaving bravery’”

A five-year-old giant African pouched rat called Magawa, however, has to be one of the world's most unlikely life-savers.

APOPO also trains rats to detect tuberculosis. An area similar to the size of a tennis court takes four days for humans to detect landmines manually.

Magawa, a pouched rat, who has sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded items of ordnance, has been awarded with a Gold Medal award by United Kingdom based veterinary charity PDSA, for his stellar contribution.

In a virtual ceremony on Friday, the United Kingdom charity PDSA gave Magawa its gold medal for his life-saving work.

An undated handout picture released by United Kingdom veterinary charity PDSA September 25, 2020 shows Magawa, an African giant pouched rat wearing his gold medal received from PDSA for his work in detecting landmines in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The non-profit, which teaches the animals by rewarding them with tasty food morsels each time they accomplish a task, says the intelligent rodents are ideal for the unsafe job. Last year, her son Prince Harry walked in his late mother's footsteps, visiting the same Angolan community that is now free of landmines following her work.

Rats are suited for landmine detection because they are too small to set them off, they can be trained and have an acute sense of smell. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years.

'But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines.

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The PDSA Gold Medal is the animal equivalent of Britain's George Cross.

While many rodents can be trained to detect scents and will work at repetitive tasks for food rewards, APOPO decided that giant African pouched rats were best suited to landmine clearance due to their African origins and lifespan of up to eight years.

They work for around half an hour a day, in the early morning.

The explosives were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998 due to internal conflicts and have caused more than 64,000 casualties.

It should be noted Magawa's service has directly saved and changed the lives of many people whose lives are impacted by the landmines. "Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people", PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin, said in a statement.

'Magawa's dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition. "We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal".

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